Jane Kagon
Executive Editor
Marion Brown
Managing Editor  
Mike Campbell
Social Media Editor 
Maureen Feldman
Social Enterprise Editor 
Karina Saravia
Science Editor 
Nadia Walker
Entertainment Editor 
Ariel Lapidus
Communication Design Editor 
Bob Lasiewicz
Education Editor 
Kris Slava
Entertainment Editor 
Marty Perlmutter
Journalism Editor
Richard Kroon
Education Editor 
Lisa Mattson
Science Editor 
Corine Ganem
Journalism Editor


In partnership with



Media is revolutionizing science in all its forms, from patient access to information, to technologies doctors use to diagnose and treat, to how science research brings solutions to global health problems. The JUST Science Section discusses the various ways media drives scientific advances and affects social change.

Karina Saravia
Lisa MattsonMarisa Co






Kay BaldwinDoug Fleischli



Teaching Future Scientists to Talk

Jack C. Schultz and Jon T. Stemmle
The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 4, 2012

Much has been written about the need for scientists to speak more plainly and compellingly about their research. Yet complaints about their poor communication skills cBrian Taylorontinue unabated in the popular and academic press and in agencies that finance their work.

But perhaps it's too late to work on those communication skills once scientists are already established. That's why we have devised a program, with support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, that seeks to build and maintain those skills early—in undergraduates who are exploring research careers by working in life-science laboratories.


Citizen Science: There's an App for That

Lisa Mattson
April, 2012

A citizen science resurgence and evolution is emerging.  The use of technology has spawned an increase in the number of ordinary people helping collect and report data on a wide variety of subjects. Amateur scientists drawn to a particular topic are helping uncover useful data to aid research in multiple scientific areas.

The resurgence has been spawned in part by new mobile apps  which allow participants to easily catalog and transmit data, making citizen science accessible for both the scientifically inquisitive and the tech savvy. The use of technology in providing maps and visualization tools, real-time data collection, apps, code bases and datasets has made it easy to pursue a scientific hobby and added a social component to the discovery.   

One of the longest standing citizen science efforts has been in Ornithology.  Other projects include the observation of plants and animals across the US via the National Phenology Network  which welcomes both professionals and non-professionals alike and astronomy and space  projects garner widespread interest. Citizen science projects are listed in numerous places, and the SciStarter website is a great place to find a topic that piques your interest. 


Citizen Science Project Blooms With Early Spring

Molly Samuel
KQED News, April 3, 2012

Contributions to Nature’s Notebook have surged since spring has sprung

Photo by: Molly SamuelThe participative science project known as Nature’s Notebook is closing in on its one-millionth observation. The crowd-sourced program collects data from across the country on the timing of natural events like plants flowering, leaves growing and eggs hatching. The study of those seasonal life stages, called phenology, gives scientists insight into how they’re connected to each other, and how they’re affected by climate and weather.  Read more…


Citizen Scientists Reveal a Bubbly Milky Way, March 7, 2012

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Oxford University

A team of volunteers has pored over observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and discovered more than 5,000 "bubbles" in the disk of our Milky Way galaxy. Young, hot stars blow these bubbles into surrounding gas and dust, indicating areas of brand new star formation.

Upwards of 35,000 "citizen scientists" sifted through the Spitzer infrared data as part of the online Milky Way Project to find these telltale bubbles. The volunteers have turned up 10 times as many bubbles as previous surveys so far.  Read more…


A “Citizen Science” Community to Test the Hypothesis that the Uniqueness of a Person, from Memories to Mental Disorders, Lies in His or Her Connectome.

Every person is unique. You know this, of course, but it has been surprisingly difficult to pinpoint where, precisely, your uniqueness resides. Scientists have speculated that the properties of your mind, from memories to mental disorders, are encoded in the unique pattern of connections between your brain’s neurons. This hypothesis is plausible, but solid evidence has been lacking, because we have never been able to see the brain’s “wiring” clearly. Fortunately, revolutionary new technologies are starting to provide the right kind of images, but in torrents that are so overwhelming that no single person can comprehend the data. Read more…


Brain Training: Fact or Fiction? 

Lisa Mattson
March, 2012

Can you really game your way to sharper mind and improved memory  and in the process  cure what ails you?  The recent  explosion of brain training websites such as Luminosity, CogniFit and FitBrains begs the question, do these games actually work? 

Academics and researchers are justifiably skeptical.  An 2010 article in Nature  highlighted a study done by the BBC Lab UK and  British researchers which claimed that there was no cognitive benefit to be garnered from brain games.   Other reviews question the scientific rigor of claims provided by  brain training companies.  Studies which offer the concrete, vetted evidence needed to substantiate the proclaimed benefits of  brain training are few and far between.

Despite this, researchers have begun to use ‘brain training’ is to treat schizophrenia patients and control tinnitus.  Results of these studies are still underway and will do doubt be heavily scrutinized.

It is brain plasticity, the ability of the brain to rewire, remold  and rebuild itself which scientists are hoping  is the silver bullet in fighting cognitive decline and injury. This plasticity, along with other cognitive attributes are what companies and neuroscientists are betting will increase your memory and forestall dementia.

There is money to be made, so look for even more companies to offer brain training exercises as the baby boomer generation looks to stay forever young and agile.  But, until more research is done, steer clear of the ones that promise to turn you into a genius.


New 'thinking cap' technologies that control weaponry 'a step closer'

The Telegraph, March 1, 2012

New technologies that tap into the brain and allow weapons to one day be fired through mind control could soon become a reality, British scientists claim.A man wears a brain-machine Photo: Getty Images

Researchers believe that new "thinking caps", could help provide super-human strength, highly enhanced concentration or thought-controlled weaponry.

A British ethics group is investigating the ethical dilemmas posed by inventions that interfere with the brain's inner workings. Read more…


Treating Schizophrenia: Game On

Erika Check Hayden, 29 February 2012

Michael Merzenich has a plan for how to convince sceptics of the worth of his brain-training video games: prove that the software can help people with schizophrenia.


The intersection of Mission and Sixth streets in San Francisco's South of Market neighbourhood is considered one of the most crime-riddled in the city. Liquor shops, adult bookshops and single-resident-occupancy hotels inhabit most of the buildings. Homeless people sit on the pavements or shuffle by, many of them showing symptoms of mental illness or drug abuse. Yet behind the walls of an unassuming outpatient psychiatric clinic, researchers are conducting experiments that they believe could fundamentally change the landscape of psychiatric care.  Read more…


Train Your Brain to Delay Dementia

Rob Kemp
The National, February 27, 2012

Ever put your mobile phone down and can't think where you left it? Wondering if you closed the door behind you when you left the house? Met an old friend but suddenly can't recall their name?

Sebastien Bozon / AFP

We're all  victims of these "senior moments" as some like to call them. They're the  nagging little incidents of momentary forgetfulness that we put down to  just that: forgetfulness.Researchers say keeping our brains active can delay the onset of Alzheimer's.  

However, research now suggests that there may be more to such minor memory failings than we think and that if we don't train our brains to stay sharp, then cognitive decline and diseases such as dementia can strike much earlier in life than experts previously thought.  Read More


Gaming for Science

Lisa Mattson
February 2012 

If World of Warcraft is starting to bore you, why not join other individuals across the globe who are working  playing to help unravel scientific mysteries? Several online games are at the forefront of harnessing  the collective brain power of gamers to decipher complex scientific problems.

Foldit, an online game developed by the Center for Game Science at University of Washington in collaboration with UW Department of Biochemistry uses volunteer gamers to help figure out how proteins fold. Protein folding is important to solving how diseases such as HIV/AIDs, Cancer and Alzheimer’s grow and manifest inside the body.

EteRNA developed by Carnegie Mellon University and Stanford University and funded by theNational Science Foundation and Stanford Bio-X Interdisciplinary Initiative Program and Media X Programs is another online game reaching out to gamers worldwide. The EteRNA game hopes to develop a catalog of synthetic RNA designs.

Phylo is an online game, supported by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada,Nokia and the McGill School of Computer Science, that is harnessing the power of multiple disparate players that complete puzzles with the aim of mapping diseases within DNA.

What draws these people to participate in these non-traditional online games? Perhaps it is the knowledge that their work could help save lives, or perhaps it is just a fun puzzle and a more productive way to waste time.  By leveraging the skills of players throughout the globe, these games are attacking scientific problems in a novel way and producing real results.



Scientific American

TMcGill Center for BioInformaticshough it may appear to be just a game, Phylo is actually a framework for harnessing computing power to solve the problem of multiple sequence alignments. Citizen scientists play the game by arranging nucleotides. The goal of the game is to maximize the matches and minimize the mismatches between the DNA sequences on the digital game board.

A sequence alignment is a way of arranging the sequences of DNA, RNA or protein to identify regions of similarity. These similarities may be consequences of functional, structural or evolutionary relationships between the sequences. From such an alignment, biologists may infer shared evolutionary origins, identify functionally important sites, and illustrate mutation events. More importantly, biologists can trace the source of certain genetic diseases.  Read more…


RNA Game Lets Players Help Find a Biological Prize

John Markoff
The New York Times, January 10, 2011

Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University and Stanford University are attempting to harness the wisdom of crowds with the creation of an online video game that challenges players to design new ways to fold RNA molecules.

The scientists hope to uncover fundamental principles underlying one of life’s building blocks, and they believe that the free game will also serve as a training ground for a cadre of citizen-experts who will help generate a new storehouse of biological knowledge. The process may also aid researchers in building more powerful automated algorithms for biological discovery. Read more…


Victory for crowdsourced biomolecule design

Copyright:, An enzyme designed by players of the protein-folding game Foldit was better than anything scientists could come up with.Jessica Marshall, January 22, 2012

Obsessive gamers’ hours at the computer have now topped scientists’ efforts to improve a model enzyme, in what researchers say is the first crowdsourced redesign of a protein.

The online game Foldit, developed by teams led by Zoran Popovic, director of the Center for Game Science, and biochemist David Baker, both at the University of Washington in Seattle, allows players to fiddle at folding proteins on their home computers in search of the best-scoring (lowest-energy) configurations. Read more…


The Influence of Games in Promoting Healthy Behavior

Marisa Co & Lisa Mattson
December 2011

Games fulfill a fundamental human desire for exploration and mastery. Games were once thought to be primarily for young audiences, however, according to the Entertainment Software Association, the average gamer is 37 years old.  In addition, 40 percent of gamers are women and more than a quarter of them are over the age of 50.  In science, “health games” have proven to be effective in improving physical fitness and offering an alternative to disease management. 

The results of a controlled clinical trial in diabetic children and adolescents assigned to take home either Packy and Marlon game or an entertainment video game with no health content found that participants in the “Packy and Marlon” group gained more diabetes knowledge, increased their perceived self-efficacy for diabetes self-care, and increased their appropriate self-care behaviors. Healthcare providers such as Kaiser Permanente have been studying the use of games to improve patient self-care and to understand the behavioral aspects associated with chronic disease management. Another game, Re-Mission helps educate young cancer patients. A study of children undergoing chemotherapy who played Re-mission resulted in a greater adherence to medication regimens.

There is clear evidence health games help patients become active participants in their own healthcare. Even so the clinical adoption of games to manage patients’ own health had been slow, due in part to the skepticism of healthcare providers who don't perceive of games as an engagement platform. As adoption of games grows, they may prove to be an invaluable tool in the quest for a healthier community.


Re-Mission Video Game - Children Fighting Lymphoma


Didget - Games and Diabetes Management in Children

Bayer’s DIDGET™ is the only blood glucose meter that plugs into a Nintendo DS™ or Nintendo DS™ Lite system. This unique meter helps encourage consistent testing with reward points* that your kids can use to obtain items and unlock new game levels. Read more...


The Gamification of Healthcare

Giorgio Baresi



Seniors use video games for rehab

by ABC News


Games, Social Justice and Healthcare

Marisa Co
November, 2011

Is it possible to use game tactics to engage people to take care of their own health?  In a powerful new book entitled “Reality is broken”, famous game developer Jane McGonigal provides some key statistics worth mentioning. So far, gamers have spent a combined 5.93 million years playing World of Warcraft. This figure is stunning when considering that 5.93 million years ago was when our ancestors began to stand up and walk! Even more incredible is the fact that the average gamer would have spent 10,000 hours playing online games by the time he is 21 years of age. 10,080 hours is also the amount of time an average fifth grader would have spent learning until his high school graduation. According to Malcolm Gladwell, it is the amount of study time required to become a “virtuoso”  in any subject by the age of 21. (McGonigal, 2010)

What makes games so “addictive”?  McGonigal highlights 4 characteristics of gamers: 1) Urgent optimism – the desire to tackle an obstacle with the belief that it can be achieved, 2) Social fabric – we like people better after we play a game with them, 3) Blissful productivity – gamers are happy to work hard, and  4) Epic meaning.

Over the past few years, a number of healthcare delivery companies, academic institutions  non-for profit organizations  and pharmaceutical companies  have been exploring the utilization of games to engage consumers to take ownership on their health.  This trend represents the latest movement towards leveraging social games to mobilize society in the quest for improving health outcomes.


Can Playing Digital Games Improve Our Health?